MISSOULA — The Missoula Downtown Foundation pivoted its fundraising efforts to focus on reducing the impact felt by local businesses when the local economy plummeted due to COVID-19.
“We know that eventually downtown is going to open up and be vibrant once again, but a lot of these smaller businesses simply need a helping hand to get through these times," Foundation member Geoff Badenoch said.
In order to get downtown Missoula up and running, the foundation recently established the Downtown Missoula Business Support Fund which will help local businesses cover the cost of things like rent, utilities, and other business-related expenses.
“The fund started with a $25,000 donation from the foundation itself,” said Badenoch, “And when we reached out to all of the banks in Missoula, as you'd expect, every one of them said, ‘Yes, count us in.’”
First Security Bank stepped up as soon as they heard about the initiative.
“It was an easy decision to get involved because it’s important for the community and we’re a community bank," community relations officer Bill Johnston said. "It’s such an uncharted territory, but we’re all in it together."
Since creating the fund three weeks ago, the foundation has received enough donations from banks and community members to deliver checks to 43 businesses and organizations downtown.
One of those recipients is the Missoula Children’s Theater, a staple of downtown Missoula -- and an organization that can use all of the financial support it can get right now.
International and public relations director Terri Elander said the past eight weeks for her organization have been a tremendous challenge.
“The financial hit has been astounding, shall I say. In mid-March we had to choose to cancel the rest of our winter and spring touring program, and that along with canceling a couple of local productions and postponing a major production was about a $2 million to $2.5 million loss,” said Elander.
She said the grant will soften the blow to their budget and pay for essential materials like cleaning supplies, but more than the financial support, Elander said receiving the grant speaks to the community’s commitment to helping each other through hard times.
“As a native Montanan, I'm constantly impressed and in awe of how we stick together as a community," Elander added.
Slowly but surely, the Downtown Foundation is helping to rebuild the economy and vibrancy of downtown Missoula, one hand-delivered check at a time. To make a donation to the fund or apply for a grant, you can visit the foundation’s website here.